Who says the Midwest is flat? If you’re considering a weekend ski trip this winter, here are seven family-friendly resorts just a short drive from downtown St. Louis. Each is close enough that you can arrive Friday, ride Saturday and be home in time for dinner on Sunday. All the resorts cater to all skill levels, offer lessons and rentals, and have a variety of rate specials. See you at the bottom!
Located right in our backyard, families have been skiing and boarding Hidden Valley’s 60 acres of skiable terrain for decades. The resort’s 310-foot vertical drop features 14 trails (30 percent beginner, 60 percent intermediate, 10 percent advanced), snow tubing and two terrain parks. The Badlands Terrain Park’s smaller jumps, rails and jibs are designed with beginners and up-and-coming skiers and boarders in mind. Intermediate and advanced daredevils should hit up the Outlaw Terrain Park’s expert-level features. Both parks have new rails and reshaped jumps this season. Check out Polar Plunge for an exciting, fun-filled day of snow tubing with family and friends. Race each other or link tubes together for a thrilling ride. Then hop on one of the two conveyor belts for a quick ride back to the top. You don’t have to wait for the weekend to get in a few runs. All trails are illuminated for night riding every day. Fridays and Saturdays stay open late for midnight skiing. Be sure to get a few runs in this season, though; it may be the last one the resort is open. hiddenvalleyski.com
Located about an hour north of Kansas City, Snow Creek welcomes residents and visitors with more than 10 runs, a bowl area, a terrain park and snow tubing. The trails throughout the 300-foot vertical drop are tailored to skill levels: 30 percent beginner, 60 percent intermediate and 10 percent advanced. If big air and flips are more your style, drop in to Rattlesnake Terrain Park. Its jumps, pipes, rails and tabletops are designed for intermediate to expert snowboarders and skiers. The resort also features Tornado Alley — five lanes stretching 700 feet — for snow tubing fun. Grab a snack and warm up beside bonfires between runs. Make the most of your trip by getting some runs in Friday night. Day sessions run from noon to 9 p.m., and moonlight sessions are 4 p.m. to midnight. skisnowcreek.com
Nestled in Southern Indiana, Paoli Peaks is approximately 220 miles east of St. Louis. Similar in size to Hidden Valley and Snow Creek, this rec area’s natural hill offers a 300-foot drop and 15 trails, two terrain parks and a dedicated snow tube park. Easier trails, such as Family Trails, Skywalker and Indiana Jones are ideal for new skiers and boarders, or anyone looking for a quick test run. More adventurous riders may enjoy five intermediate runs and two black-diamonds, including Bobcat — a wooded section open to skiers and boarders. New and younger freestyle riders will want to test their skills at The Bonk. The beginner terrain park offers small boxes and jumps, steel benches and rails. After building up some confidence, you may consider progressing to Empire Park, Indiana’s largest terrain park. More than 40 features, including large jumps, fill an entire intermediate trail on the western side of Paoli Peaks. Don’t let Paoli Peaks being in the Easter Time Zone, limit your time on the slopes. The resort offers midnight sessions until 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. paolipeaks.com
Chestnut Mountain Resort
There’s nothing quite like being able to get out of your skis and into a Jacuzzi in less than five minutes. Unique among winter sports areas featured in this roundup, Chestnut Mountain has a slope-side resort with 100 overnight rooms as well as amenities like an indoor pool and hot tub, sauna, game room, sports bar and several restaurants. A little over five hours by car from downtown St. Louis, the 475-foot vertical drop here meanders 3,500 feet through 19 runs, ranging from bunny hills to black diamonds. Its terrain park, the Farside, is the largest of its kind in the Midwest at 7 acres and has been chosen as the top-rated Midwest snowboard park by Transworld for three years running. The park contains more than 25 rails and an array of features, and is served by its own triple chair lift and surface lift. chestnutmtn.com
Villa Olivia and its 18-hole course may cater to Chicago-area golfers in the summer, but from early December to early March it’s a winter haven for skiers, snowboarders and snow tubes. A quad chairlift and six rope tows transport visitors up the hill for rides down seven trails (two beginner, three intermediate and a black diamond) or a drop into the terrain park designed for experts. Be sure the check out the special events before you go. Weekend and night specials begin January 10. Rile up local Cubs fans and wear your favorite Cardinals jersey on Wednesday Sports Jersey Night to purchase a discounted lift ticket. Other discounts include: Friday Student Night (junior high, high school and college students), active or retired military personnel with current military ID, and Family Fun Night on January 28 and February 25, from 4 to 10 p.m. villaolivia.com
Windy City families have been reveling in Four Lakes’ snow sports for more than 50 years. Located about 30 miles west of downtown Chicago, the resort is a popular learning ground. It offers two beginner trails, an intermediate trail, a terrain park and an advanced trail that’s also home to the Four Lakes Race Team. Snowboarders and freestyle skiers of all levels can find excitement in the Alley Terrain Park. Wide and flat boxes are ideal for beginners, while intermediate riders will enjoy the corrugated pipe and two 20-foot-long rails. Advanced riders will be challenged by the Downflatdown Rail — a 40-foot-long flat-bar rail with two kinks and mellow transitions. Regulars won’t be bored, as park crews regularly rearrange and adjust features throughout the season. fourlakessnowsports.com
Mt. Crescent Ski Area
Honey Creek, Iowa
Skiing in Iowa? Absolutely. Open since 1961, Mt. Crescent Ski Area is just 15 miles east of Omaha, situated in the Iowa Bluffs, and spans 50 acres. Intermediate and expert riders can take the two-person chairlift to Mt. Crescent’s 1,500-foot summit and then connect Merry Lane to Twister or Mach 1 for a thrilling ride down. Experts may enjoy veering off of Merry Lane to either Blackjack or Exhibition (both are back-diamond trails). Or exit the lift and head down the double-diamond Double Trouble Chute. Newer riders may be right at home on the hill’s two easiest runs: Breezeway and Easy Street. The resort also offers an expert-level terrain park and a tubing/sledding area for everyone. If you’re looking for something a little more crazy and fun, check out the Snow Box Derby on January 28. Teams build and race their own derby sleds and compete for various prizes: fastest sled, best crash, best advanced design and best beginner design. skicrescent.com
[author] [author_info]Nick Brennan is a contributor to Terrain Magazine and mountain bike geek; he occasionally snowboarded when he lived in Southern California.[/author_info] [/author]
I noticed you didn’t mention Cascade Ski Resort. Its their 60 th anniversary in January.. My father, Ray Cook built Cascade in the late 1950’s. My sister is writing about it. Would you be interested in her article?